Using instead of owning – how sharing pays off for the environment

In Western consumer society, the importance of sharing has steadily declined since the second half of the 20th century. With the start of mass production, prosperity grew and prices fell. Products no longer had to be shared, as everyone now had their own car, washing machine and later their own computer. Sharing was thus unlearned to a certain extent, as it was no longer necessary. For some years now, we have been moving away from this development again. With the climate crisis, the ecological and sustainable idea is becoming more and more important. With a growing environmental awareness and the new technological possibilities, the desire to share is also growing (again). Today, sharing is something special that one actively decides to do. In many cases, it is still a kind of statement for a conscious and environmentally friendly lifestyle, whereby one opposes today’s prevailing consumer behaviour. Companies have recognised this trend and offer services and platforms where people can swap and share. The barter economy is a growing market with great potential. One of these companies is Sharely AG, based in Zurich. Sharely is the largest Swiss rental and leasing platform for everyday objects, where private individuals and companies upload their rarely used objects and rent them out to other private individuals and companies. It is generally assumed that the sharing economy generates positive environmental benefits, i.e. reduces resource consumption and CO2 emissions. However, it is also known that (almost) every activity has a rebound effect in addition to the positive impact. Sharely AG therefore conducted a study at the beginning of the year on the environmental benefits of its business and determined the CO2 savings per transaction. There are over 20,000 properties on Sharely, which can be divided into 650 different property types. The study focused on the most rented properties, which together account for over 50% of the transactions. In the study, the property-specific CO2 values for production and disposal were determined on the one hand, and on the other hand, a user survey was used to analyse what proportion of tenants would have bought a new appliance instead without Sharely. Transport (from the landlord to the tenant and back) and early replacement purchases were included as rebound effects. The result is impressive: per transaction there is a saving of 88.4 kg CO2. For every 100 rental transactions of the most rented object types on Sharely, 52 purchases and thus the production of the corresponding products are effectively prevented. The CO2 savings are considerable, and the study shows how much potential can still be tapped if owning becomes using and buying becomes sharing. After decades of the economy boosting personal independence and individualism through consumption, we are slowly realising the consequences of this kind of self-realisation on the environment. This realisation must now be used to find a consensus between economic efficiency, environmental protection and the individual needs of consumers. Environmentally friendly consumer behaviour is more than just doing without goods. Rather, it is a matter of finding new ways and making them socially acceptable.


Sharely AG: Study on the environmental benefits of Sharely, 2020 The summary of the study is available here.

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AUTHOR: Nadja Stillhart

During her business administration studies, Nadja Stillhart worked in a classic wholesale company. After graduating in 2019, she was looking for an employer where environmental benefits were an important part of the corporate philosophy and joined Sharely AG in marketing and project management. Since then, she has been intensively involved with the interplay between economy, ecology and society.

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